Broken Toes

By Katiedid Langrock

June 25, 2016 5 min read

My 3-year-old is potty-trained. But we still have close calls. Like last weekend. Seconds were of the essence. I told him to run. He lagged. I thought of the laundry. The carpet. The cleanup. I could not have it. I would not have it.

I picked him up, my hands lifting him under his armpits. We scurried down the hallway. Faster. Faster. My son made it through the bathroom door. My foot made it to the bathroom doorframe.


As my son relieved himself, I hopped over the bathtub, holding my stubbed toes. A loud expletive escaped my mouth. My son turned to ask me what had happened. Was I OK? He turned. So his body turned. So he watered his clothes. He watered the entire surrounding area. I thought of the laundry. The floor. The cleanup.

My stubbed toes had been in vain.

I spent the day with my foot elevated. Aspirin. Ice. Aspirin. Ice. Hobble. Hobble. Cry. Aspirin. Ice. My mom insisted I go to urgent care. I said no. I'd been down this path with the broken toes many times before. Once the week of my first marathon. I'm stubborn. I carry on. Besides, I rationalized, they can't do anything for toes anyway, and they're probably not even broken; they're probably just bruised.

The next day, I was still in pain — a stupid amount of pain for such small body parts. My mom insisted I go to urgent care. She was in town. She would drive. So I went.

There was a medical exam. And an X-ray. And results showing two clear fractures. And I felt... vindicated!

As the doctor wrapped my toes in orange tape and fitted my foot for a boot, I felt fantastic. Sure, it was just toes. But at least they were really broken. At least I wasn't just a crybaby.

It was reminiscent of the time I went to the doctor's office after returning from Europe, where I had had a bad bike accident months earlier. I'd hobbled around the EU, and I was scared to see a doctor when I returned to the States. Would she say I just had a bruise? Would she laugh at my aches? When I found out I had broken my thumb, torn 25 percent of the ligaments, suffered a severely sprained ankle and dislocated my shoulder, I was thrilled. I could have jumped up and done a happy dance. Except not, because, ya know, the whole severely sprained ankle thing. And everything else.

I was fitted for an idiotic-looking miniature cast on my hand to help my thumb heal. Folks would see the cast and would immediately offer help, such as opening doors, which was welcome. But then the look of the cast would register. And the questions would come. How did you hurt yourself? And I would have to admit that I had ridden, full steam ahead, into a curb. Admit that I'd never tried to pop a wheelie and jump a curb before but thought, while wearing a 50-pound backpack: How hard can it be? I'd have to tell the embarrassing truth that I'd hit the curb and flipped over the handlebars. And the fine folks who were holding the door open would laugh.

The fine folks holding the door open for me this week, as I hobble in on old crutches, also are asking why I am hurt. "I walked into a wall and broke," I told each one at first.

"You walked into a wall?"

"Yes, I walked into a wall."

And they would laugh as the door shut behind me. All the joy I'd felt at the doctor's office about my pain being validated and vindicated diminished.

Lo, this time, I decided "no." No more mockery of my pain. This will not stand! (Which is easy to get behind, because I can barely stand.)

The truth is overrated anyway. So now I tell a new tale to every person I speak to. I've jumped out of an airplane. I've had a city bus roll over my foot. I've been attacked by a killer iguana. Fallen into an undiscovered cave. Stepped on a sea urchin. Battled a burglar. The rumor mill at work has begun. No one believes me. But no one knows what's real. And no one is laughing.

Viva broken toes.

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Photo credit: Sam Saunders

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